Saturday, April 18, 2009

There's nothing wrong with pragmatism and compromise 

Sure Obama and the Democrats have to make concessions to political conditions. There's lots of things they couldn't do even if they wanted to, and there's lots of things they have to do even though they don't want to. This is more true of the leaders of the U.S. than of other political leaders. They're in the center of an immense system and are subject to a million conflicting demands. They don't have the luxury of taking a stand on a limited array of right/wrong issues.

The problem, though, is that the Democrats also actively support a whole lot of bad ideas not because they have to as part of complex exchanges and compromises, but because they really buy into a whole lot of bullshit. A whole lot of Democrats are lazy, stupid, corrupt, and complacent. They're not reformers playing the game according to the current rules with the goal of changing them. They buy into the whole rotten shitpile and believe it's good. For example:

While [elite pollster Stanley Greenberg] happily pontificated on the lessons these experiences held for President Barack Obama, he was a bit more defensive on why he had proudly featured in the book Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada, former President of Bolivia who is currently wanted for his role in a massacre of 67 people in October 2003. Greenberg was drafted in 2002 to help Goni, a Chicago-educated and wealthy businessman, get elected president during a time of social upheaval created largely by U.S.-backed "free market" economic policies (known as neoliberalism). Branding Goni as the only man who could "resolve the crisis," Greenberg and other US political consultants helped their client scrape an electoral victory with just 23 percent of the popular vote.

The deaths took place less than a year later when Goni announced deeply unpopular plans to give foreign corporations more control over Bolivia's natural gas resources. Road blockades erected by protesters in the poorest neighbourhoods of the high altitude city of El Alto effectively cut off supplies. Goni signed a decree that instructed the army to clear the roads and promised "indemnification for any damage to property and persons which might occur." That effective carte blanche resulted in the army shooting live ammunition indiscriminately at men, women and children.

Military repression brought to a head one of the country's bloodiest years, in which more than 100 people died in social protests. Rising popular anger led Goni to flee the country to exile in the US. He has since lived comfortably in Chevy Chase, Maryland protected by Republicans and Democrats alike. Greenberg admits in the book that the violence caused him "to take stock," yet he ends up saying he is now "more certain of my course and his [Goni's]." He concludes: "I am proud of what we did to help Goni become President." From the podium at the Commonwealth Club, he blamed the atrocities on the supposed "parallel violence" by the unarmed protestors.

It seems a surprising conclusion for a man who is supposedly in-touch with the electorate. Goni is reviled by most Bolivians as a corrupt and arrogant politician who devalued human life. Even Goni's Vice President Carlos Mesa denounced him and swore that he would never use violence to enforce policies. Two-thirds of Bolivia's Congress - including many who had formed part of Goni's coalition - approved a trial seeking responsibility for the massacres. Disgust at Goni's neoliberal economic and social policies, which had increased poverty and inequality, was partly behind the landslide 2005 electoral victory of one of the leaders of Bolivia's many social movements, Evo Morales.

Yet sadly Greenberg's positive spin of Goni seems to be a view that is widely shared with the Democratic Party. At a Washington launch event for Greenberg's book, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also appeared to hold Goni in high esteem, warmly welcoming Goni to the event, calling him a "very special man." Goni's former defense lawyer, Gregory Craig, is now Obama's White House Counsel. The Democrats' historic loyalty to one of their favored pro-American friends seems to outweigh their commitment to human rights and fair legal process.

The Democrats like Goni because he likes them and pays them. They're too lazy to think about it more. No necessary compromises here, or in a lot of other places. Just complacent support for conventional bullshit positions in order to enjoy the feeling of being powerful establishment players.


Interesting item that is getting an enormous amount of play in the Spanish-speaking press and very little on the English-speaking side-- Chávez, upon shaking Obama's hand, went out of his way to say "I have waved to Bush with this same hand for eight years. I want to be your friend."

Scats this does support your theory of a North American media bias against the Strong Bolívar. But, then again, our people can only focus on one topic at a time, and Cuba seems to be it.

I want to say something for the record, that is also related to the last post. Nothing Obama has done has surprised me in the slightest. I was saying all along that he was a centrist. All presidents who are not insane (i.e. Bush) LOVE the slow process of "turning the ship of state," as Obama put it to Turkish students. It makes them look studious, intelligent, dignified, etc. Obama will break no molds in diplomacy; even Nixon, for Christ's sake, ate this stuff up.

But I do appreciate gestures-- like it or not they are a huge part of what presidents are about. I would argue, for example, that Chávez's gesture here is meaningful. Obama makes a lot of heartening gestures. They are not revolutionary, as he is not. But they are a decisive break with his destructive predecessor and I am allowed to find them comforting and -nonetheless- be horrified at the bailout, the lack of prosecution of Bush figures, etc. etc.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Shock Indoctrinator!!! 

Gotta love Naomi Klein, even with her inexcusably Pop neologisming.

Scats, you are definitely part of the hopelash, whereas I seem to be hopesick!

two things well said 


The superficial similarities between Morales and Obama only serve to highlight the critical differences: Bolivia's president is a former union leader who draws directly on his experience to fight for his principles, whereas our erstwhile community-organizer president trades on his past to gain votes while actively betraying the principles he formerly espoused. To put it another way, Morales uses his power to further the goals of the popular movement that made him president, while Obama co-opts the power of the popular movement that made him president to undercut its goals.

Just for a moment, imagine what it would be like to have a president who actually possessed (positive) core, non-negotiable convictions, and for whom going on a hunger strike was well within the range of sacrifices they were willing to make to fight for those convictions. While you're at it, imagine what it would be like to have a populace that demanded this level of conviction in exchange for their support—and refused to settle for less. And finally, imagine how far short of those goals we could fall and still be light years beyond where we are today.


Whatever partisan chuckle you might get from re-invented posturing by conservatives, its main holding power is a distraction from noticing the way in which Democrats have taken a hold of the worst of the Bush agenda --corporate bailouts, abuse of executive powers, failed middle-east policy-- with insider ownership.

The other day an excited Obamite friend exclaimed gleefully about the relaxation of travel restrictions to Cuba, "This guy is just amazing! That's HUGE!". This in the middle of, always in the middle of, a hideous financial policy, renewed support for the IMF at the G20, and FuckWar 2009. The near-total co-optation of the Peace movement, such as it was, by the Democratic Party is particularly impressive, if entirely predictable. I believe some folks at this very blawg were astonished when I curmudgeoned about MoveOn being up the Party's ass, well the results are in, astonish no longer.

Pirates, teabaggers, Cuba travel restrictions...if I could slap my forehead any more, it would come out the back of my skull. That would be a mercy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Stolen from TPM:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

News Blackout/Tea Parties 

I don't have TV, and for whatever reason I haven't been reading the blogs lately, or even much of the newspapers, and have been getting all my news from public radio, which I have on all the time while I pace back and forth and ponder the irreality of my life.

A few nights ago the excellent Tom Ashbrook of "On Point" did a segment on the new right-wing hysteria, and played multiple clips of Glen Beck and his ilk basically inciting the populace to violent revolution.

Then, watching a rare moment of MSNBC at the gym, I got the gist that all people who watch cable news have been hearing about for some time are these alleged Tea Parties.  All Tea Parties, all the time.  Except some time given to joyful/maniacal affirmations of everyone's desire to personally shoot a pirate in the head.

I'm not sure what my point is, other than that I guess I'm glad I don't have TV.

UPDATE: The pirates failed! The pirates failed! The pirates failed!!!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pirates Nominated 

Based on recent "news" "coverage," I ascertain that the Somali pirates have been nominated for the Democratic candidacy for president in 2012.


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